Memorial Lane: Street Signs, Soldiers And Sept. 11
Street signs from Ridgewood to Flushing honor Sept. 11 victims. Some wonder who else should be honored.
By Azi Paybarah
This week, the 1,000th American soldier to die in combat was recorded by government officials. That growing number represents less of a political question for government leaders, but rather, a thorny issue for local residents – namely, how to honor those soldiers.
Community Board 2 in Long Island City narrowly voted down a request this week to add the name of one of those soldiers, Frank Carvill, to the street where he founded an immigrant advocacy group. “Rather than run out of streets,” said First Vice-Chairperson Stephen Cooper, they should “build a memorial.”
In explaining her vote against the dual-naming, CB2 member Judy Markova e-mailed the Tribune, and wrote “[I]f every time someone came before the board asking our support in re-naming one of our streets...where would it all end?”
Continuing “This Arrangement”
She went on to say, “[A]fter 9/11...when so many police and firemen died we all were in a terrible state of shock. And in the months after when a family member or someone came before the board asking for the name of this person who had died to be honored with their name on some street, we at the board supported the idea. But it simply doesn’t seem like the right thing to do to continue this arrangement.”
In opting for a memorial to honor all Iraqi War veterans, CB2 seems to have refocused the community’s attention on honoring veterans collectively, instead of individually. They are not alone.
CB 1 in Astoria imposed a moratorium on such dedications after receiving proposals that some members considered “frivolous.” Tony Meloni, who chairs the Public Safety Committee for CB1, told the story of one accountant who sought such an honor, justifying it to the board by saying he had a store on that corner for three years.
“I’m glad you feel that way and it’s great, but it’s not quite up to standard,” was the response Meloni gave. Noting that some of the requests were not as easy to laugh at, he added, “How do you say no to him and yes to someone else. What kind of standard do you use?”
Rules For Honoring
That “standard” is something Meloni has formalized, in a four-point proposal that will be discussed, and possibly voted on, at CB1’s Dec. 21 meeting.
Requests must be (1) written, (2) seconded by three local organizations, and be for (3) a deceased elected official, community activist, or person who died heroically who (4) has some significant attachment to the community.
Those requirements parallel the ones drawn up by CB12 in Jamaica. According to District Manager Yvonne Reddick, proposed honorees must have “been in the community for X amount of years; be active in the community,” and “there’s a petition that has to be signed. You have to get the consent of the residents.”
CB12’s criteria was formalized before Sept. 11, and precipitated by requests like the one to rename Linden Boulevard after civil rights leader Malcolm X. “It wasn’t like he was a resident,” said Reddick, who noted the proposal met near universal opposition.
“Historically my community board and myself have both been…this district has been very…what’s the word I’m looking for…been very strict with street renamings,” said Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr. “It is not something we take lightly. Unlike other areas where they seem to put them up on daily basis, we have very strict criteria.”
In fact, since 2001 there have been only two dual street naming ceremonies in Astoria – only one of which was within Vallone’s district – compared to 12 in Middle Village, and five in Glendale, which are repre
sented by Councilman Dennis Gallagher and within CB5.
According to his office, Gallagher officiated 23 such events. (That number doesn’t include ones in places he represented before district lines were redrawn in 2002, like Jennifer Mazzotta Way on Grand Avenue and 72nd Place in Maspeth.)
CB5 did show restraint when it scuttled an effort to honor former Grover Cleveland High School Principal Myron L. Liebrader. Before the board voted, CB 5 member Donald Passantino read a statement from a teacher at the Ridgewood school that accused Liebrader of “not report[ing] incidents that happened in the school.” It went on to say, “By the time of his last term in 2001 the police were having to be called on a regular basis.”
Although the proposal passed in May by a vote of 24 to 9, it quietly died after more vocal opposition was registered. CB5 District Manager Gary Giordano said at the time, “The man is deceased. How well loved he was, I don’t know.”
“It’s a very tough thing to tell a family you’re going to deny their request [for a street name change] for a loved one who died. Unfortunately, I have had to do that and there is no political up-side to it,” said Vallone.
According to residents with whom he has spoken, “The City Council gets a bad reputation, that all we do is street renamings. I tell them I understand.”
Along with diminishing the value of such an honor by making it such a common occurrence, safety was also cited as a reason to be frugal with the honor, said Vallone, who chairs the City Council’s Committee on Public Safety.
“It’s a safety hazard for someone who is trying to find a location and looks at a pole and sees three or four signs on it.”
“That is bull,” said State Sen. Serphin Maltese when told of Vallone’s opposition. Maltese represents Middle Village and served in the Army and as a Marine reservist from 1952 to 1954 in Korea. “They put one under the other,” he said of the signs.
As for how one veteran views the dual-naming honors that have grown common in the years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, Maltese said, “I never heard a vet from either [World War II or Korea] say, “Gee, I wish they had that when I served.”
WWII veteran Bill Shoenmuller agrees. He’s happy soldiers today are recognized with dual-namings, but said, “I would rather they took care of V.A. hospitals, than do any more monuments or street renamings for the veterans.”